AA

The Sober Pagan

December, 2018

Breaking Sugar’s Grip One Day At A Time

 

(Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash)

 

I decided this year not to make any huge platters of Yule cookies. I might make a small batch of Heirloom Cut-Outs – just before the holiday – but I am not going to make very many – and they are going to be for bringing out for guests who stop by – along with tea or coffee or some all-natural eggnog.

The reason I don’t want to make a bunch of cookies is because along with trying to stay off alcohol and drugs, I am trying to stay off sugar as well. Totally ending sugar is nearly impossible – it’s a necessary ingredient in my homemade bread recipe – but I want to be able to drink my coffee without added sweetening of any kind and I want to end my daily craving for chocolate. I don’t use artificial sweeteners and never will.

I personally think that there’s a connection between the sugar we consume in the form of cookies and candy and things such as donuts and cravings for alcohol and giving in to emotional triggers that allow us to justify using our drug of choice. I say this because I have been “in” recovery for almost thirty years and I have paid close attention to how my body reacts to what I put into it – these past few years, especially. One thing I notice is that when I overdo it with any kind of sugary treat, I usually end up craving a beer a few days after that. It took me a while to figure this pattern out. But once I saw it, I couldn’t deny that it was real.

When I first got into rehab thirty years ago, I remember going to a lecture by one of the counselors – he wasn’t my counselor but I knew who he was – I no longer remember his name but he was a lot older than I was – probably as old as I am now – which seemed old to me thirty years ago! Anyway, he held up a half-gallon of ice-cream and said, “Now that you’re sober, you’re going to be eating a lot of this stuff, right?” And we all enthusiastically agreed. He shouted, “WRONG!” And tossed the ice-cream into the garbage can! He went on to tell us that although AA and “other people” might say that switching to sweets is a good way to stave off the cravings for alcohol and drugs, increasing our sugar intake would only lead us into other health problems, such as diabetes – AA is filled with diabetics. More importantly, he said, switching to sugar after quitting drugs and alcohol was only “switching to another drug” and eventually would lead us to relapse – “because no sugar high can compare to an alcohol buzz or a cocaine high” – and of course, he was right. At the time, I didn’t think so. At the time, his lecture pissed me right the fuck off. At the time, I wouldn’t have recognized that being so pissed was a sign that I knew that he was right and I didn’t want to admit it. But now – having thirty years to think about it and experience what he was talking about – I do know that he was totally right. When you get sober, your intake of sugar is dangerous to your sobriety. And if you’re anything like me, you had an addiction to sweets before you ever picked up a drink or a drug. Long before I had any kind of addiction to any drug at all, I had a deep love for chocolate. I was never safe around M&M’s. I’m still not. I never buy them anymore at all.

Breaking the addiction to sugar and to sweets is one of the hardest things I have ever gone through. Trying to find something to take the place of chocolately desserts is really tough. I do love fresh fruit and eat whatever is in season. Natural sweets are wonderful but I still crave chocolate and I always will. I know that white sugar in my coffee affects me like a line of cocaine and all I can manage is a small amount of brown sugar. Hopefully someday I will have milk in my coffee and that will be it. But I love homemade cookies and cakes. I love baking pies, especially fruit pies. I don’t want to have to stop eating all sweets forever, but I am going to really be aware of what I eat and how if affects my other triggers – my cravings for alcohol, my jones for cocaine and my bipolar moods.

All I know, is that the more sober time I have, the more quality sober time I want. Sobriety is definitely a part of my spiritual life now – I can’t imagine trying to meditate, do ritual, read the Tarot or the Lenormand or reach the Goddess in any meaningful way if I was stoned or drunk or even hungover! Breaking sugar’s grip one day at a time is another step in my recovery. Maybe it would help you too.

Until next month, Brightest Blessings and Happy Yule! Stay Sober! Hugs!

***

About the Author:

Polly MacDavid lives in Buffalo, New York at the moment but that could easily change, since she is a gypsy at heart. Like a gypsy, she is attracted to the divinatory arts, as well as camp fires and dancing barefoot. She has three cats who all help her with her magic.

Her philosophy about religion and magic is that it must be thoroughly based in science and logic. She is Dianic Wiccan and she is solitary.

She blogs at silverapplequeen.wordpress.com. She writes about general life, politics and poetry. She is writing a novel about sex, drugs and recovery.

The Sober Pagan

November, 2018

“H.A.L.T.”! Before You Continue Into The Holiday Season!

One of the discussions lately in the rooms of AA – at least here locally – is how to get through the holiday season without relapsing. As someone who has been around recovery for a while, I find my best bet is to stay home and enjoy my own company. This year, my son’s father – Mr. AA himself – is spending the Yuletide season with us, so it’ll be lots of recovery talk and talk about Buddhism and other spiritual paths. Plus lots of good food to eat! I admit, I am looking forward to this!

When people ask me my strategies for navigating holiday parties, I generally say, “Arrive late and leave early.” But of course – you can do this as a drunk, too. I used to do it all the time. I was always on my way somewhere else from some other place and I only had a minute to spare. But the way you lived as a drunk can help you out as a sober person. You just leave out the drinking part.

Lately I’ve been using the acronym “H.A.L.T.” when I discuss dealing with the holidays. Because the holidays – what I term the time between Canadian Thanksgiving (first Monday in October) to New Year’s Eve – and depending on where you live – all the way to Super Bowl Sunday – is a giant stretch of time involving endless office parties, family get-togethers, religious rituals, community celebrations and constant reminders that we are supposed to be having a great time!

H.A.L.T. Just stop. Think. What are you doing and why are you doing it?

Sometimes it’s not even about relapsing. It’s about running ourselves ragged trying to make everything perfect – to make up for all those years when we were perfect fuck-ups.

As you probably already know, “H.A.L.T.” stands for “Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired”. Whenever something is going wrong in our lives – it doesn’t even have to be a relapse – usually we are in the grip of one of those things.

I remember when I first got sober in my early thirties. Everyday, around three o’clock, I would get wicked hungry. I would have to get up from my desk and go to the break room and buy a candy bar or get a Pepsi. I started making myself an extra sandwich to get myself through the three o’clock hour. Then one day, I passed a bar with the sign “Happy Hour” in the window and it clicked. I was used to having a drink at 3:00 – I was used to drinking until the dinner hour. I wasn’t hungry – I wanted a drink. Once I understood that, my 3 p.m. munchies largely disappeared.

Anger is one of those issues where I disagree with AA in which I think that there are times that we should be angry and that anger can save our lives. That said, the thing is to use your anger wisely and of course, once you add alcohol into that equation, wisdom usually is not the outcome. Quite honestly, anything I can do sober I can fuck up beautifully when I’m drinking. So it stands to reason that if I’m angry about anything at all, taking a drink is not going to help the situation. Especially if I’m at a holiday party!

Loneliness is a killer but going out drinking seldom helps that. And if you’re with your family and feeling like you’re the outsider, having a drink probably isn’t going to help that situation. The only thing that cures loneliness is learning to love your solitude. And there’s always a meeting somewhere – AA, NA, Smart Recovery, WFS, SOS – find one and find your tribe.

The last letter is “T” and of course, that stands for “Tired”. It is so easy to give up when we are tired. So easy to take that drink that a friend is offering us at a party – so easy to justify it – just one, right? When we are tired, our brain doesn’t make good decisions. I know my brain doesn’t. I’m not sure what’s worse – being hungry or being tired. My brain doesn’t seem to be able to deal with either of them very well. So I always make sure that I am in a safe place when it’s late.

My “Happy Hour” is now spent in my own home – sipping tea and eating my home-baked cookies.

So “H.A.L.T.” – and enjoy the season!

Until next month – Brightest Blessings and Happy Holidays!

***

About the Author:

Polly MacDavid lives in Buffalo, New York at the moment but that could easily change, since she is a gypsy at heart. Like a gypsy, she is attracted to the divinatory arts, as well as camp fires and dancing barefoot. She has three cats who all help her with her magic.

Her philosophy about religion and magic is that it must be thoroughly based in science and logic. She is Dianic Wiccan and she is solitary.

She blogs at silverapplequeen.wordpress.com. She writes about general life, politics and poetry. She is writing a novel about sex, drugs and recovery.

The Sober Pagan Book Review of Hopeful Healing: Essays on Managing Recovery and Surviving Addiction by Mackenzie Phillips

October, 2018

Book Review of Hopeful Healing: Essays on Managing Recovery and Surviving Addiction by Mackenzie Phillips

The last column I wrote was titled “What’s in your toolbox?”, which was posted August, 2018. I missed posting an article last month due to my father’s illness and subsequent death. Believe me, during the stress of the past several months, I have had more than one occasion to open up my toolbox and review all the tools I have in there. In some cases, I polished them off and updated them. Others I just cherished like the old friends that they are. And I added a few new ones because it seems like there’s always another tool to be tried. I once heard that AA meetings are like recovery hardware stores when it comes to finding healing tools to help you become healthy and whole.

Of course, there are other place to find tools and books are one of those places. I have a large collection of recovery books – AA-approved and otherwise. Recently, the editor of PaganPagesOrg, Jennifer Sacasa-Wright, sent me Mackenzie Phillip’s latest book, Hopeful Healing: Essays on Managing Recovery and Surviving Addiction, published by Atria Paperbacks, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

This is a wonderful little book. I don’t know if you know who Mackenzie Phillips is – she’s five months older than me so we are contemporaries – but knowing who she is really doesn’t matter as far as the contents of this book is concerned. You’ll find out enough about her so that you know that she knows what she’s talking about when it comes to using drugs and trying to get sober and eventually achieving that serenity. If you want to know more about her life, there’s an autobiography with all the titillating tidbits that everyone tweets about called High On Arrival: A Memoir

. And of course, there’s always Google. But Hopeful Healing: Essays on Managing Recovery and Surviving Addiction is just that – eleven short missives on how to get through the worst part of recovery – which, really is all of it.

Each chapter is set up the same way. There is the title of the chapter and a quote from an outside source that defines the chapter. Then she has a story about her own use or maybe someone she knows – someone in her past life or someone she has counseled in her practice. She is very discrete in her disclosures but you always get the message – the strength, the hope, the experience. At the end of each chapter there is a section called “It Works If You Work It”. It’s the “workbook” section of the book – where you get your paper and pen and answer questions about what you just read and apply it to your own recovery. In this way, she makes this slender book into a living act of hope and healing.

Some of the things she wrote about really hit home in a large way. When she wrote about “re-creating history” (page 5) that rang so true, even though I didn’t have a family history of shooting heroin – but I have a family history of alcohol use and abuse – so the idea of “it being so normal” (page 5) definitely rang true. I grew up with the martinis that my parents always drank when Daddy came home from work and the beers that were consumed at every family picnic. The hangovers that were explained as Grampa’s morning “grumpiness”. You had to stay out of his way, ya know? This was normal. And I thought that all mommies drank red wine when they made dinner! So naturally, I re-created this reality when I grew up. Not with red wine but with beer and marijuana. I remember my little son handing me a rolling paper so I could roll a joint first thing in the morning! For my doobie with my coffee! That helpful little guy! That was a wake-up call right there.

Another thing that I could really identify with when she wrote that getting high felt great (page 17). It does feel great – that’s why we do it. There’s no other reason any addict or alcoholic uses – and that’s whatever your drug of choice may be – and I’m including food and gambling and sex and working out with this – getting high feels like a million bucks when you do it. It’s the other part of using that sucks – the hangover, especially – but also the empty bank account and the broken promises and whatever problems are caused by your actions. And even a so-called good addiction – like working out – can have adverse outcomes. There is use – there is abuse – and there is dependence. The question is – where does your relationship with your substance of choice lead you?

A lot of what she writes about is the same stuff you will hear about at any AA/NA meeting or rehab group or therapy session. Mindfulness – trusting yourself and others – acceptance – surrender – forgiveness of others and of yourself – taking responsibility and consequences. On pages 83 and 84, she has a 5-point plan, which I read to be a pre-Twelve-Step plan of action – points 1 and 2 are about thinking about changing your addictive ways and point 3 is preparation for change. Point 4 is action – when you go to AA/NA, check in at rehab, see a therapist, tell all your friends that you’re getting sober. Point 5 is maintenance. She writes, “This is when the real work begins.” (page 84) She doesn’t say that this is when you go through the Twelve Steps of whatever group with which you have chosen to affiliate yourself. But this is what she means: “The possibility of relapse is always real, but this is also the stage in which you arm yourself with a set of skills that will make you less likely to slide back into places that you’re determined to leave behind.” (page 84)

One of the best chapters in the entire book is near the end. It’s about abuse and denial. She writes:

Here’s the hardcore truth: you can smash the pipe, put the plug in the jug, break the tip off the needle, but if you

don’t address the deeper issues, you’re not going to be able to get whole or become a healthy part of the world

around you. Trauma, maltreatment, or abuse, whatever you choose to call it, is a huge, deeper issue that comes

up a lot when we look at addiction. Not talking about trauma and its relationship to substance use would be like

avoiding the larger-than-normal elephant in the room. Childhood trauma and its aftermath is something that

needs to be spoken of and brought out in the open. This is also true of adult trauma, which is often not spoken of

or reported.

(page 123)

I totally agree with this – not only is it true in my own life, I can attest to this, having sat and listened to many other people – at AA and NA meetings, in rehab sessions, and in domestic violence groups.

She talks about trauma in scientific and compassionate ways. How we carry trauma with us for “the rest of our lives”. (page 129) The “before-trauma you” and the “after-trauma you”. (page 129) For those of us who have experienced multiple traumas and different kinds of traumas, this kind of demarcation makes sense – like looking at pictures in a photo album.

Phillips also writes that trauma “takes up residence not only in your mind but also in your body.” (page 129) Trauma victims experience “headaches; pain in your joints; stomach issues; weight issues; feelings of exhaustion, anxiety, and depression.” (page 129-30) How many of us have had these symptoms? I know that I took opiates for years for some of these!

The one thing she doesn’t talk about in this book is spirituality. The closest she comes to it is talking about hope. And she writes that “humor and laughter are just other faces of hope” (page 143) and to remember that “hope is the thing with wings”. (page 145) Other than that, she never mentions a word about anything spiritual whatsoever. This, honestly, is one of the book’s strengths. This book has the ability to appeal to anyone struggling with substance abuse regardless of religion or spiritual beliefs or lack thereof. For wiccans and pagans looking to read a book on sobriety that doesn’t cram God-talk down their throats, Mackenzie Phillips offers a really nice alternative to so many of the recovery books that are currently on the shelves of our libraries and bookstores.

All in all, I have to say that this is an outstanding little book and I would recommend it to anyone interested in recovery. In fact, I have a good friend to whom I plan to give it to the next time I see her! I know she will read it and pass it on to another woman in recovery. I hope it goes far!

Until next month – it works if you work it! Brightest Blessings!

References

Phillips, Mackenzie. Hopeful Healing: Essays on Managing Recovery and Surviving Addiction. NY: Atria Paperbacks, 2017.

Hopeful Healing: Essays on Managing Recovery and Surviving Addiction

***

About the Author:

Polly MacDavid lives in Buffalo, New York at the moment but that could easily change, since she is a gypsy at heart. Like a gypsy, she is attracted to the divinatory arts, as well as camp fires and dancing barefoot. She has three cats who all help her with her magic.

Her philosophy about religion and magic is that it must be thoroughly based in science and logic. She is Dianic Wiccan and she is solitary.

She blogs at silverapplequeen.wordpress.com. She writes about general life, politics and poetry. She is writing a novel about sex, drugs and recovery.

The Sober Pagan

August, 2018

What’s in Your Toolbox?

Back when I lived in Lowell, Massachusetts – several years ago – I had Comcast cable and one of the stations I received was called Decades. I guess you can receive it on Spectrum cable too but it’s on some wicked expensive package. It’s a cool station – everyday, they feature the events of that day – whoever’s birthday it is or whatever noteworthy happened on that day – so the programming changes accordingly. Anyway, every day at 8 in the morning, I would watch an old episode of the Dick Cavett show. Back in the 1970’s, Dick Cavett had a talk show that was as cutting-edge as Johnny Carson’s – maybe more so. One day, I saw an interview with Dick Van Dyke. Dick Van Dyke was one of the first major celebrities to come out as a recovering alcoholic – I remember this vividly as a young kid. This was part of the interview. Dick Cavett asked Dick Van Dyke if he was a “member” of AA. I remember Dick Van Dyke answering that “AA was an important tool” in his “toolbox” but “it wasn’t the only tool”. That made a big impression on me.

I found the interview on YouTube and the link is here, It’s REALLY good.


Lots of AA-ers will tell you that all you need is AA and more AA to stay sober. Maybe for some people this is true. But not for me. As happy as I am with my new home group, it doesn’t begin to fulfill all my sober or spiritual needs. I am always looking for other groups to attend – both AA and otherwise – and I am always searching for new sober skills to add to my toolbox.

I created a file called – duh – “Toolbox” – and I filled it with everything I have found to add me on my road to recovery. There’s every version of the twelve steps – or thirteen – or sixteen – that I have discovered – Wiccan versions and Pagan versions and Buddhist versions. There’s a Goddess calendar so everyday I can dedicate the day to the Goddess whose day it is. There’s things I myself have written, like this:

THE MOST IMPORTANT THING OF ALL

Do not take that first drink. Without the first drink, there is no second drink & there is no third drink & there is no drunk.

With no drunk, there is no running out of money & having to hustle drinks & then getting into questionable sexual situations.

With no drunk, there is no going to questionable places to get other drugs to get higher than the drunk you already have because drinking doesn’t do it anymore & you have to get more wasted. & than spending money that you were supposed to save for other things. & then wanting to die all night long as you go through withdrawals.

With no drunk, there is no hangover. No migraine, no diarrhea, no bleeding hemorrhoids. With no drunk, you wake up in the morning & feel fabulous.

DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, TAKE THAT FIRST DRINK. IT ALL GOES DOWNHILL FROM THERE.

I also have links to ezines like thefix.com and Just For Today Meditation. I also have non-drinking support aids, like “Directives on the Healing Road” from Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road by Neil Peart. Sometimes you find sober support in places where you least expect it.

The point is – what’s in your toolbox is up to you. Create a toolbox and fill it with all the tools you can find. And then use those tools! A toolbox filled with tools is no good if it’s never opened and tools are never put to good use!

Until next month – Brightest Blessings! And stay sober – one day at a time! Hugs!

Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road

References

Peart, Neil. Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road. Toronto: ECW Press, 2002.

The Fix: Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Recovery News. http://www.thefix.com

Just For Today Meditation. http://jftna.org/jft/

The Dick Cavett Show on YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EUKV_q-J0Ds

***

About the Author:

Polly MacDavid lives in Buffalo, New York at the moment but that could easily change, since she is a gypsy at heart. Like a gypsy, she is attracted to the divinatory arts, as well as camp fires and dancing barefoot. She has three cats who all help her with her magic.

Her philosophy about religion and magic is that it must be thoroughly based in science and logic. She is Dianic Wiccan and she is solitary.

She blogs at silverapplequeen.wordpress.com. She writes about general life, politics and poetry. She is writing a novel about sex, drugs and recovery.

The Sober Pagan

July, 2018

A Home Group, Finally

I have finally found a home group! I knew as soon as I walked into the room that this was going to be the group for me. The time is perfect – 7:15 a.m. – it meets Tuesdays and Thursdays – it’s easy for me to get to – the meeting room itself is lovely – very Zen, although it’s a room in a Presbyterian Church. But it has large windows that look out on a courtyard with flowering trees and well-tended gardens and places to sit and meditate – much like any Buddhist Temple might offer. I felt at home immediately.

This spring I have struggled through one of the worst depressions of my life – at least, in last ten years. I had trouble getting to the store for basic groceries, let alone getting to an AA meeting or anywhere else. My entire spirituality suffered. I was amazed to find that I didn’t want to live anymore – and I was sober.

There were many dark days and many long sleepless nights.

Even though I thought I had lost my faith, yet I sat in meditation. Sometimes I sat for hours. It seemed like my brain had stopped to utter stillness but it was simmering like a sober stew. I needed that time of quietude. No sound except the chirping of the birds, vehicles driving past the house and children laughing as they walked to the corner to wait for the school bus. I didn’t dwell on any of this – I just noted each sound and let them go.

My son’s father came to town on route to somewhere else. He has over ten years in AA and is a social worker – he works with the homeless in Florida. He is Buddhist and has many years of practice. We spent the afternoon together, talking and meditating.

The next day, I started going to meetings again. The next week, I found this particular meeting – my new home group.

Soon after this, my son – who has six months sobriety – moved back in with me. I am so grateful for his sober support.

It is still a daily struggle. I have to admit that. At least once a day, I have a wicked bad jones. Something always triggers me. It can be almost anything. The weather – the time of day – a certain smell. I white-knuckle it hour by hour. Then – it passes – and I am so grateful that I didn’t give in.

I know that I have complained about AA for years and found every excuse under the sun not to go to meetings. But now I actually look forward to going to the meetings on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. I haven’t felt like this about a meeting in over ten years.

Now I wonder – will the Goddess come back to me?

***

About the Author:

Polly MacDavid lives in Buffalo, New York at the moment but that could easily change, since she is a gypsy at heart. Like a gypsy, she is attracted to the divinatory arts, as well as camp fires and dancing barefoot. She has three cats who all help her with her magic.

Her philosophy about religion and magic is that it must be thoroughly based in science and logic. She is Dianic Wiccan and she is solitary.

She blogs at silverapplequeen.wordpress.com. She writes about general life, politics and poetry. She is writing a novel about sex, drugs and recovery.

The Sober Pagan

April, 2018

Fighting Depression with Affirmations, Gratitude, and the Happiness List

When you first get sober, if you attend AA meetings, you are sure to encounter the Twelve Steps. They can be powerful tools in helping you to acquiring and maintaining your sobriety but they are not the only tools in your toolbox.

Many of us suffer from various mental illnesses. Most people have some form of anxiety or depression at any given time – life is stressful, and that’s just it is. One thing I have learned is that repeating affirmations really help in combating depression. They can be a most effective tool in your fight for happiness.

But – “I’m too depressed to create an affirmation!” Or – “These affirmations are stupid! They have nothing to do with my real life! I’m depressed!” Yes, I have been in that place, too. What I have learned to do is that whatever negative thought I have and turn it inside out or upside down or backwards or however you want to look at it, but turn it – even if feels stupid, sounds stupid and you are convinced within a shadow of a doubt that it’s totally stupid and it won’t work. Do it anyway. It will work. Repeat that affirmation as part of your morning and evening meditation for twenty-eight days and I guarantee you, you are going to feel better. That positive statement will have become a part of your thinking and it will have changed you.

And keep doing it. Like a diet, when you have been reducing calories and eating healthier foods and exercising on a regular basis, when you reach your goal weight and you feel like a new person, you know that if you go back to eating the junk you were eating before you started, you’re going to regain all that weight and probably a few extra pounds, too. That’s the same with saying affirmations and all positive practices. If you stop – if you get lazy with your practice – your feeling of blah is going to return and the next thing you know, you’re going to be in a depressed state again. And maybe on the road to relapse.

(Photo by Cathryn Lavery on Unsplash)

Some people in AA say that when you’re depressed, you should make a “gratitude list”. I don’t like gratitude lists because then I have to think to whom I am grateful? Of course, most people in AA are Christian, so their answer is “God” and the next statement is to pray and give thanks to God for all these things for which you am grateful. But as a Pagan/Wiccan/Witch, I don’t really look at things in this way. Not that I’m not grateful – if I have a reason to be – like I was grateful that my friend gave me a ride to the store and I didn’t have to take the bus in the bad weather the other day – but I don’t get being grateful for sunsets.

What I do is make “Happiness Lists”. When I am depressed, I ask myself, “What makes you happy?” Of course, when you are depressed, this can be as hard as coming up with affirmations! But even when I am wicked depressed, my kitties make me happy. (Even when they are pissing me off, they make me happy!). And sunsets make me happy. Sunrises make me happy too! Seeing flowers make me happy. Smelling good food makes me happy. make me happy.

Even if you can’t come up with more than one or two things on your “Happiness List”, that’s OK. Hang on to that! It’ll grow as your mental health well-being grows. Add to it as you think of things that make you happy. Soon, you’ll see that you have lots of things in this world and in your life that create moments of happiness for you. This realization is one of the most powerful tools you will ever have. Put it in your toolbox and use it!

Until next month, Brightest Blessings.

***

About the Author:

Polly MacDavid lives in Buffalo, New York at the moment but that could easily change, since she is a gypsy at heart. Like a gypsy, she is attracted to the divinatory arts, as well as camp fires and dancing barefoot. She has three cats who all help her with her magic.

Her philosophy about religion and magic is that it must be thoroughly based in science and logic. She is Dianic Wiccan and she is solitary.

She blogs at silverapplequeen.wordpress.com. She writes about general life, politics and poetry. She is writing a novel about sex, drugs and recovery.

The Sober Pagan

March, 2018

The One Thing That Keeps Me Sober

 

(Photo by Yoal Desurmont on Unsplash)

 

It’s been a terrible winter for me. The weather has been working against me. We had a very snowy and windy winter here in Buffalo – which honestly, isn’t that unusual here – but we also had to contend with a lot of freezing rain and icy conditions on the roads and sidewalks. As a pedestrian who owns a really good pair of boots, I can deal with the snow but ice will keep me indoors since I don’t want to fall and break a bone. So there were many days I would have gotten out but I stayed indoors.

There were AA meetings I would have gone to but between the weather and the local bus service running “Sunday service” on Monday holidays, I have yet to get to a meeting this year! Yes, I know I could go to other meetings but you know how it is when you find a meeting you really like. This one isn’t that far from my house but I do need to take the bus to get there.

The other thing is that at the end of January, I got that terrible flu that’s been going around. If you haven’t gotten sick from this flu, count yourself lucky. Or blessed. I know people who got flu shots and they got wicked sick. I haven’t gotten a flu shot in over ten years and I rarely get sick – a cold every winter and a sinus infection or two – a reminder of my cocaine days – but I haven’t gotten “The Flu” in a long time. But this year, I was so sick, not only did I think I was going to die, I really wanted to. My lungs have never hurt so badly in my life. I thought of my friends who smoke cigarettes and have COPD and I wonder how they deal with this! My son called me everyday and bitched at me for not going to the ER. But I didn’t have the energy to go anywhere. I lost nine pounds in four days. I drank bottle after bottle of spring water. I sipped chicken soup. Eventually I got better. I started eating again. The cough hung on for three weeks. But that’s subsided now, too.

A persistent depression has dogged me these past few days. My aunt, who is 88 years old, had a stroke this summer and is now going into assisted living, since she is always falling and getting tangled up in her walker. She can’t cook for herself anymore. My aunt is the picture of sober living – she never smoked cigarettes, drank, ate very sparingly, and of course never did drugs. But here she is – at age 88 – totally incapacitated and dependent – not to mention depressed and angry. I was thinking about this. What’s the point to live such a sober life, just to end up all messed up anyway?

Of course, this is classic “stinkin’ thinkin’” and how you start on the road to relapse. I know that I had better get to a meeting right quick or at least call one of my sober friends or open the Big Book or one of my other recovery books. And the main thing I have to remember is:

It isn’t about when I am 88 years old. It isn’t about some time in the future that may or may not happen. Or something – like having a stroke – that may or may not happen. It’s about now. It’s about having a good life now. That’s the real meaning of “One day at a time” – it doesn’t mean don’t plan for the future – because we all have to make plans or else we won’t have a future – but it means to live fully in the now.

To me, if there’s one thing that keeps me sober on a daily basis, it’s the fact that I passionately hate hangovers. I used to take them with a grain of salt – they were the payment for having a really good time, right? But now – I don’t want to wake up feeling like that at all. When I was sick with the flu, I thought that I would rather have a hangover but honestly – I don’t want to be sick with the flu or a hangover. And the thing with hangovers – they’re preventable. All you have to do is don’t take that first drink.

Hopefully, I’ll have something a happier report next month. Until then – hang in there and stay sober. Brightest Blessings!

***

About the Author:

Polly MacDavid lives in Buffalo, New York at the moment but that could easily change, since she is a gypsy at heart. Like a gypsy, she is attracted to the divinatory arts, as well as camp fires and dancing barefoot. She has three cats who all help her with her magic.

Her philosophy about religion and magic is that it must be thoroughly based in science and logic. She is Dianic Wiccan and she is solitary.

She blogs at silverapplequeen.wordpress.com. She writes about general life, politics and poetry. She is writing a novel about sex, drugs and recovery.

The Sober Pagan

November, 2017

The Recovery Spiral and the Spiral Steps

If you hang around AA for any amount of time, you will no doubt hear that you have to acquire a “Big Book” – the text of Alcoholics Anonymous – and read no other book – unless it’s the “Twelve and Twelve” – the AA book about the Twelve Steps and Twelve traditions – or one of the other “approved” literature that Alcoholics Anonymous World Services puts out. I myself own a Big Book and a Twelve and Twelve. Like everything associated with AA, there’s a lot to love about these books and a lot that honestly pisses me off about them. My own personal copies have color-coded tabs stuck on the edges of the pages so I know where to look for help and I’m not wasting my time with stories that I don’t need. And many times, reading something in the “Big Book” or the “Twelve and Twelve” has kept me sober for one more day.

But I own many other recovery-based books. Not for one minute have I ever believed that “The Big Book” was the only reading material for an alcoholic or an addict any more than I ever believed that the Bible was the only reading material for a Jew or a Christian. There are many places in which you may find wisdom and enlightenment – some are not even within the covers of a book! By all means, read “The Big Book” but read everything else as well!

One of my favorite recovery books is The Zen of Recovery by Mel Ash. This book talks about recovery in Buddhist terms. You don’t have to be Buddhist to identify with the issues Ash brings up or his path to recovery. He covers the Twelve Steps and how to deal with them in a non-theistic way. It was an important book in my early recovery and one that I go back to again and again.

Another favorite is Many Roads, One Journey: Moving Beyond the 12 Steps by Charlotte David Kasl. (All her books rock). I especially like how she discusses faith development, links patriarchy and addiction, and looks at various recovery groups. She lists various “steps” – the Twelve Steps of AA, the Thirteen Steps of Women for Sobriety, and the Sixteen Steps she herself came up with. She also talks about toxic groups and sexual abuse within groups – it’s an incredible book. It was published in 1992 and it would be great if she came out with an update – things have changed in twenty-five years.

I came across The Spiral Steps quite by accident. I was looking for tarot readings that corresponded to the Twelve Steps and somehow I found a page out of The Recovery Spiral: A Pagan Path to Healing by Cynthia Jane Collins – I think it was on Google Reads or maybe Amazon. I can’t really remember. But I was instantly intrigued. As soon as I could, I bought the book.

It has become one of my very favorite recovery books. It addresses all kinds of problems – not just drugs and alcohol – but overeating, shopping, gaming, sex, working out – whatever it is. The First Step of the Pagan Twelve Steps reads, “We admitted we were harming ourselves and others and our lives had become overwhelming.” (Collins, 3) I don’t know about you but I find this much more appealing that AA’s First Step with its insistence on powerless and unmanageability. And whereas Step Two in AA is a plea to a “Power” greater than any of us peons on earth to “restore” our “sanity”, the Pagan Step Two reads, “Came to believe that a power within ourselves and our world could restore us to balance.” Not sanity – balance.

Here are the complete Pagan Twelve Steps:

  1. We admitted that we were harming ourselves and other and that our lives had become overwhelming.

  2. Came to believe that a power within ourselves and our world could restore us to balance.

  3. Made a decision to move our wills and our lives toward that Divine Presence.

  4. Made a searching and fearless ethical inventory of ourselves.

  5. Admitted to ourselves, to the Divine Presence, and to others the exact nature of our harm.

  6. Were entirely ready to have our harmful patterns replaced by ethical coping skills.

  7. Asked the Divine to transform us, giving us rebirth in our lives.

  8. Made a list of all beings we had harmed, beginning with ourselves and including our world, and became willing to make amends to them all.

  9. Made direct amends to all whenever possible, except when to do so would violate the Rede.

  10. Continued to take personal ethical inventory, and when we were wrong promptly admitted it and corrected it.

  11. Sought through action and meditation to improve our conscious knowledge and contact with the Divine Presence, seeking only to choose in harmony with the greatest good.

  12. Having had spiritual awakenings as results of these steps, we offered this opportunity to others and practiced these principles in our lives.

As you can see, these steps keep the hard-hitting self-development that the original steps had but they remove the Christian flavor that leave a bad taste in our pagan mouths. If you want, you could easily remove “Divine Presence” and put in the name of whatever deity that you personally work with. Certainly – some deities are more conducive to sobriety than others!

The book is filled with stories of people in recovery and people using the steps and the Tarot readings in various ways. Although the Tarot readings are designed to be used with a sponsor, you can do them on your own. The back of the book had Tarot readings and how to use them. There is also a Recovery Spiral Book of Shadows. This has step rituals, a workbook for each of the steps, chants, and spells. There’s also an awesome bibliography. It’s worth checking out some of the books she lists, if you haven’t read them yet and reacquainting yourself with the ones you’ve read years ago. I know that’s what I plan to do.

If you live in a place like I do – where the sober pagans are few and far between – it might be a good idea to invite the few sober pagans that you do know over to your home for a sober evening. Do a ritual from The Recovery Spiral – chant the Pagan Twelve Steps – raise some sober power. Perhaps this could be the start of the one and only Pagan meeting in your area.

But until that happens – I’m continuing to be the solitary sober Dianic Wiccan that I am.

Brightest Blessings!

References

Alcoholics World Services. Alcoholics Anonymous. NY: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., 2001

Alcoholics World Services. Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions. NY: Alcoholic Anonymous World Services, Inc., 1981

Ash, Mel. The Zen of Recovery. NY: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Perigee, 1993.

For Amazon information, click image below.

Collins, Cynthia Jane. The Recovery Spiral: A Pagan Path to Healing. NY: Citadel Press, 2004

For Amazon information, click image below.

Kasl, Charlotte Davis. Many Roads, One Journey: Moving Beyond the 12 Steps. NY: HarperCollins, 1992

For Amazon information, click image below.

 

**

About the Author:

Polly MacDavid lives in Buffalo, New York at the moment but that could easily change, since she is a gypsy at heart. Like a gypsy, she is attracted to the divinatory arts, as well as camp fires and dancing barefoot. She has three cats who all help her with her magic.

Her philosophy about religion and magic is that it must be thoroughly based in science and logic. She is Dianic Wiccan and she is solitary.

She blogs at silverapplequeen.wordpress.com. She writes about general life, politics and poetry. She is writing a novel about sex, drugs and recovery.

The Sober Pagan

October, 2017

The Issue of Powerlessness

It’s a beautiful fall day and I am on my way to an AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) meeting. It’s not easy for me to get to meetings, because I don’t have a car and public transportation in the Western New York area leaves a lot to be desired. To attend a one-hour meeting means traveling at least forty-five minutes to an hour each way on the bus. For years, this dead time on the bus kept me from attending meetings at all and of course, I invariably ended up drinking again. I had to get real with myself – what’s the difference between wasting time with public transportation or wasting time in a bar?

My name is Polly and I’m an alcoholic and a drug addict.

I once had eight years of sobriety but I went “back out”, as they say in AA, and I’ve been “in and out” ever since. I’ve been trying very hard since I moved back to Buffalo, mostly for health reasons. I have to admit, I really like drinking. It’s really – drinking doesn’t like me. That’s the truth of it. It’s like being in love with an abusive man. I always thought domestic violence was a lot like addiction.

Like all non-Abrahamic religious people – Pagan, Wiccans, Buddhists, and all the non-believers – I have many issues with AA. Unfortunately, in Buffalo – like many cities – it’s really the only game in town. There are a few SOS (Save Ourselves, or Secural Organization for Sobriety) meetings but nothing that I would be able to attend, given my disability. Rational Recovery stopped meeting in Buffalo back in the 1990’s. Women for Sobriety, the recovery group founded in 1975 by Jean Kirkpatrick as a women’s alternative to AA, also has no meetings in the Buffalo area, but I do subscribe to their weekly newsletter. I have tried to stay sober on my own – doing sobriety spells, daily meditation, working out, white knuckling it. Invariably I drink and drug again.

I once had a sponsor who told me, “Meeting makers make it.” So I am getting on the bus and going to a meeting. Even if it takes up my entire morning. Again, what else am I doing? If I drink, then I’m drinking for the entire day. I’m a daytime drinker – I start around 11 in morning and stop around dinner time – that’s how I do it. And then I’m going to be sick for my entire tomorrow. So why am I bitching about a meeting taking up my entire morning? I can go home after the meeting and have the afternoon to write and create art. And I’ll feel good tomorrow. Hello? I have a problem with that?

I think what most of us Pagans and Wiccans have an issue with – first thing – is the idea of being powerless over alcohol and drugs and everything else in the world – an idea that is stressed over and over again in AA and all the “anonymous” groups. After all, the whole idea of being a witch – I consider myself to be a witch, I don’t if you do – is to own your own power. So the idea of admitting powerlessness goes against the grain of everything we have been working toward as Pagans and Wiccans.

However – when we are wasted on alcohol – when we are hungover and puking and have headache that would split the atom – that’s not powerful. Be honest. How many times has someone taken advantage of you when you’ve been wasted on drugs? For me, it’s too many times to count. Too many terrible things have happened to me and I bet, to you, too. That’s what powerlessness is about.

I was on the bus the other day and it flashed to me – one of those lightbulb moments – instead of thinking about being powerless over alcohol, I would think of it as “Sobriety is powerful”. My power is in being sober. I can make better magic, stronger spells, have more meaningful meditation sessions when I am sober. And I mean sober on a daily basis.

If you want true freedom – and that’s what being Pagan is all about – you have to be sober, too. I truly believe that. It took me years to get here, but I’m here now. If you want what I have, well, be here next month and I’ll have something else to share with you.

Brightest Blessings!

***

About the Author:

Polly MacDavid lives in Buffalo, New York at the moment but that could easily change, since she is a gypsy at heart. Like a gypsy, she is attracted to the divinatory arts, as well as camp fires and dancing barefoot. She has three cats who all help her with her magic.

Her philosophy about religion and magic is that it must be thoroughly based in science and logic. She is Dianic Wiccan and she is solitary.

She blogs at silverapplequeen.wordpress.com. She writes about general life, politics and poetry. She is writing a novel about sex, drugs and recovery.